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Boccherini, Six Sonatas for Cello and Piano (Ricordi)

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Boccherini’s style is completely characteristic of the period in which he lived, the period, that is, of Haydn, rather than that of Mozart or Beethoven. He enjoyed a reputation for his facility as a composer, leaving some 460 or so compositions, including some 32 sonatas for cello and basso continuo. The best known of these sonatas are the six issued in London in 1771 by the Scottish publisher Robert Bremner. The sonatas were issued in Paris by La Chevardière in a transcription for violin. The six sonatas, retaining the numbering found in Bremner’s edition, were published in Italy in the 1870s by Ricordi in arrangements by the cellist Alfredo Piatti for cello and piano. It is this version of the sonatas that is recorded here, one that differs not only in the keyboard realisation but in some other respects from modern editions of the sonatas derived from other manuscript sources.

Sonata No. 1 in A major shows in its first movement the variety of form that Boccherini used in his sonatas, here with a repeated first section moving to the dominant and duly returning to the tonic in the second half. The Largo D major second movement opens with double stopping, already a feature of the preceding movement, and includes a cadenza. The final Allegro again includes a repeated first section and a similar pattern of modulation.

Sonata No. 2 in C major adopts the same structure in its first movement, with a repeated first section in the opening Allegro, leading to the dominant. The binary form F major Largo is introduced by an ornamented melody, its modulating first section repeated. The mood changes abruptly in the final Allegro, with its Più animato passage in a higher register of the cello in the repeated first section of the movement and excursion into the minor before arpeggios leading to a return of the animato.

Sonata No. 3 in G major opens with a Largo, ending with a short cadenza. The second movement is marked Allegro alla militare, an indication also used elsewhere by Boccherini and one that aptly describes the character of the movement. To this the final Minuetto provides a contrast.

Sonata No. 4 in E flat major starts once more with an Adagio, exploring the higher range of the cello in the second half of the movement. The following Allegro is characterized by strongly marked rhythms and the sonata ends with a movement in the form of a Minuet.

Sonata No. 5 in F major has a characteristic first movement, with the now expected elements of virtuosity. It is followed by a movement marked Largo in the Piatti edition, a C major aria that assumes a melancholy character as it moves into a minor key. There is a short cadenza before the movement ends. There is a lively final movement.

Sonata No. 6 in A major, here given in its original published version, has been found in an alternative manuscript version which offers a variant of the second movement. The sonata starts with an effective Adagio which includes a brief cadenza. The second movement offers an element of technical display, testimony, as elsewhere in these sonatas, to Boccherini’s prowess as a cellist. The last movement, marked Affettuoso, provides a gently melodious conclusion to the set.

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